Keep Timely Communication

By Ericka Chickowski Print this article Print

A recent academic study shows that in-office coworkers of telecommuters are less satisfied as the number of teleworkers within an organization increases. In response, Baseline has talked to the experts and gathered a strategy for better uniting remote and in-office workers together.

Keeping daily communication timely and plentiful can also curb in-office coworker dissatisfaction. According to Golden, one issue that office bound coworkers have with teleworkers is that they feel like they must pick up the slack when minor emergencies arise in the office. If they are unable to quickly get in touch with the teleworker then they bear the responsibility to resolve these issues.

“If someone is in the office and an manager stops by the cubicle, and says ‘Gee, i need this now,’ the person who is there right now is the person who typically gets stuck handling that,” he said. “If they perceive that the teleworker is not available or doesn't want to be disturbed and they may handle the request themselves.”

In addition to bridging the gap through prompt day-to-day phone and email replies, it is also critical to schedule regular meetings with managers and sometimes coworkers via the richest media possible, be it phone, videoconference or in person. This is especially important for remote workers who work far from the office and can potentially feel isolated from the team. Stanley suggests that at a bare minimum teleworkers and managers should set a regular time to meet each week.

Ensuring Adequate Face-to-Face Time
While technology can go a long way toward facilitating communication, nothing beats face-to-face meetings for solving complex problems and building rapport.

“Face to face interaction is considered the richest for media interaction in that there are the full range of contextual cues by which people can read and interpret the messages and information and the knowledge which individuals are trying to transfer during a discussion,” Golden said. “Technology has come a long way toward mirroring many of these qualities but there’s some debate within the research whether some of these technologies will ever to be able to truly replicate face to face interaction.”

Both Golden and Stanley agree that every teleworker, from the employee who works from home a few days a week to the telecommuter located far from the office, should be given the opportunity to get plenty of face-to-face time with management and coworkers. Stanley suggests that managers ensure that the occasional teleworkers should always conduct their weekly scheduled meetings in person, while the remote worker should make a trip to the office at least quarterly.

“Not only does that help the manager and that person reconnect , but it is really important for that remote worker who feels that they are isolated from their coworkers and from the environment and especially the culture of the organization,” Stanley said.

“This especially helps to create an atmosphere where everyone is successful when coworkers are working on teams.”

Golden believes that one of the biggest reasons that coworkers of teleworkers tend to be dissatisfied is because they are unable to build the same level of camaraderie within a team over the phone and through email.

“If you think about the typical office place, in addition to interacting over work related topics, employees typically interact in a variety of chance or informal encounters, by the elevators, by the coffee pot, and on the way to the restrooms,” Golden said. “These tend to be unplanned and generally informal kinds of interaction. As the proportion of teleworkers increases within a work unit, these types of encounters are apt to become less common and as a result some of the interaction which might have otherwise built camaraderie or affinity between individuals becomes less prevalent.”

Obviously management can’t replace all of these interactions lost on a day-to-day basis through telework, but making a concerted effort to regularly bring the teleworker back into the office can ensure that they happen occasionally.

“If they have sufficient levels of face-to-face interaction they’re able to potentially mitigate these types of adverse impacts in terms of how others percieve these teleworkers,” said Golden.

This article was originally published on 2008-02-07
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